Leopards have superb climbing abilities and they are afraid of lions and tigers. The consequence is that they retreat to a tree for safety. They also take kills into trees to preserve them.
Safety From Predators
Why do leopards climb trees? Leopards in India are fearful of tigers. They become extremely cautious around larger cats such as the tiger (Asia) and lion (mainly in Africa). As a result in order to avoid an encounter with a lion or tiger they climb trees to find a safe haven. Both the tiger and leopard are not as good at climbing.
“In the Serengeti lions chase leopards whenever they see them, and the leopards invariably climb a tree or retreat to a kopje (a small hill in a flat area)”.
Arjan Singh raised three leopards and they all had an instinctive ‘dread of tigers’.
Take Prey Into Trees
Another reason why leopards climb trees is to prevent prey being ‘stolen‘ from them by scavengers or predators.
“Where cover is sparse, leopards either take their kills into a tree before they start to feed or drag and carry the carcass a considerable distance to find a secluded spot.”
In the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, Africa, leopards living in areas where hyenas are common regularly drag their killed prey into trees. Where there are fewer hyenas this behaviour is uncommon.
The storing of prey in trees is more common in Africa than Asia. Leopards can avoid taking prey into trees by hiding the carcass in dense cover.
When leopards take kills into trees they encounter difficulty in starting to feed in their normal way which is ‘the removal of the stomach and intestines through a slit made with the teeth along the center line of the prey’s belly’. In trees they don’t do this and the body cavity is eventually opened and the intestines fall out or are pulled out.
Source and quotes are from Wild Cats Of The World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist. Thanks.
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